B2B Spotlight Q&A:
Raja-Saleem Javaid,
Rolls-Royce

After we uncovered the world of LPG marketing in our last edition, we took a trip to Derbyshire, UK to have a chat with Rolls-Royce’s Director of IT Strategy, Enterprise Architecture and Innovation, Raja-Saleem Javaid.

 

Rolls-Royce is one of the world’s leading industrial technology companies, and has customers in more than 150 countries, comprising more than 400 airlines and leasing customers, 160 armed forces, 70 navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers.

 

Our guest dives into how Rolls-Royce’s cutting-edge technologies deliver clean, safe and competitive solutions to its customers that also meet our planet’s vital power needs. Watch the whole interview or read the entire conversation below.

 

Q: Tell us about your role at Rolls-Royce?

A: My role and my team’s accountabilities are to determine the digital capabilities that Rolls-Royce Group requires, to enable us to deliver our overarching vision and mission, both at a holistic level, but also across our vertical parts of our business. We determine the five-year roadmap and these roadmaps will be everything from the application, to the infrastructure, to the energies or assets that we need to deploy. We then describe that into an investment over the next five years. The innovation aspect of my team looks at how we can accelerate that, and drive a level of innovation across all things that we do in IT. 

 

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in technology?

A: I've always been fascinated with IT,  from my early days at School Programming BBC Micro all the way through to having pretty much all the gadgets that exist. The key thing for me is that in everything that we do, both in our personal life and in our work life, we’re in some shape or form touched by IT or digital. I find that so exciting, not only in terms of what we do with the technology today, but the opportunities it brings for us in the future. 

 

Q: Tell us about digital transformation at Rolls-Royce. How do you embed tech into the organisation?

A: Reinventing of digital is one of our core group priorities and within that, there are three pillars to our digital strategy. The first one is perfecting the digital twin, the second is amplifying, accelerating and monetising data and the third is creating a digital-first mindset across the organisation. Now specifically, with perfecting the digital twin, that’s around creating a digital variant of everything that we have. That could be the digital variant of the product, the service, the customer, the organisation, and to do that and to enable that, technology is fundamental. 

 

"Perfecting the digital twin is around creating a digital variant of everything we have."

 

The second pillar where we perfect, amplify, accelerate and monetise data, is something that we’ve been doing for three decades, through our engine health monitoring a service that we provide to our civil aerospace customers. That requires a huge degree of investment in digital capabilities and technology. 

And thirdly, what is far more important than the tech that we deploy in our organisation, is how do we nurture a culture where people think digitally? And for me, that’s about being agile, that’s about being collaborative, that’s about making things simple and being involved in the decisions that we take. 

Q: What’s the most significant impact that digital transformation has had on Rolls-Royce on the whole so far?

A: I picked two key areas that I think are quite fundamental. Firstly, we developed a five-year capability roadmap - a digital strategy roadmap. That 120 pages document really didn’t bring to life the value that digital would bring across Rolls-Royce. We created a physical embodiment of that strategy, through all of our value streams from the first interaction of our customer, through the design of the product, all the way through to service. We visualised or characterised the applications and the benefits that digital technology will provide. 

The second area, and one that’s very close to my heart, is the Digital Academy, which we launched about two years ago. The premise of that is around creating a shift from analog to digital in the mindsets of our people. That started off with myself and two other people, to define what that cultural program was and now we’ve touched over 30,000 employees across this organisation, who have become digital pioneers. What we’re doing is driving a mindset of agility, collaboration, bold and simplicity. 

 

"We're driving a mindset of agility, collaboration, bold and simplicity." 

 

 

Q: What’s the most interesting initiative you implemented at Rolls-Royce to help push the boundaries of tech in the industry?

A: Rolls-Royce has been pushing the boundaries of technology for the last century, both in terms of the products that we create and the services that we deliver to our customers. 

In terms of the next fifty to one hundred years, our core mission is about pioneering the power that matters. And that’s around electrification of cleaner, safer, sustainable fuels to power our engines. It’s also around how we leverage artificial intelligence to increase the pace of innovation across Rolls-Royce and how we drive machine learning to look at all the data we hold, to provide additional value-adding services back to our customer. 

 

Q: In 2017, you mentioned you want to Rolls-Royce to be the Netflix of your sector. Do you feel you are realising that goal?

A: One of our key parts of our strategy is around amplifying, accelerating and monetising data. We’ve created a sub-brand team of our organisation called R2 Data Labs. Its core purpose is to look at how we can take all the data we've got across our organisation, look at the data that we can capture from our customer, and be able to provide key insights. Those insights are therefore provided at a front-end portal, which other customers can then access and leverage.

R2 Data Labs's core purpose is to look at how we can take all the data from across our organisation and the data we capture from our customers, and provide key insights which other customers can access and leverage.

So I think we're very much on that journey. There's a long way to go... I don't think there's ever going to be an endpoint. What we need to look at is continuing to reinvent in that space to ensure that we remain market-leading.

 

Q: How do you implement digital transformation throughout the business?

A: I think it’s for me quite simple; you need to start from the top and drive the burning platform at a C-suite level. That enables the business to respond to that and understand what digital transformation means for its teams or the sub-teams that sit within it. It can’t just start as a series of small pockets of programs. It needs to link back into the core business deliverables. 

 

"Digital transformation needs to link back into the core business deliverables."

 

Q: What does successful innovation look like?

A: For innovation to be successful it has to fail. For me, there’s no win or lose. It’s win and learn. What we’ve applied in Rolls-Royce is a different mindset of failing fast, learning from those mistakes and moving forward. Throughout my career I have seen a number of organisations push towards ‘right first time’, which I think is the right metric to have. I guess my question to organisations that have that, is... if you’re always right first time, you’ve ceased innovating at that point and you need to continue look at ways of improving whatever it is that you’re doing... product services, processes etc.

 

"For innovation to be successful it has to fail. For me, there’s no win or lose. It’s win and learn."

 

What really drives a catalyst shift in an organisation is the CEO or the heads of department by driving or creating the space for people to innovate and reward failure. If you look at some major technology organisations, Google, Microsoft... they actually reward people that have tried something and failed. I think that’s the mindset shift that has to be taken across all organisations and if they don’t do that they’ll find quite quickly they’re either become disintermediated or they won’t exist very soon. 

Q: How do you keep up with the constantly changing business landscape and new customer expectations?

A: The key thing is about having a close intimate relationship with the customer. By that, I mean understanding what the needs of the customer are. And not only understanding them, but anticipating them. So, understanding their markets, understanding the pressures they’re under and making sure that we provide the right level of services and products that enable them to do that. Specifically, key focus areas for our civil aerospace customers will be for example, around fuel efficiency, and therefore we leverage our engine health monitoring service and other services to provide them with insights on how they can be more effective and efficient in what they do. 

  

Q: What do you love about your role?

A: Apart from the fact that I’m a geek 🤓and I enjoy technology, I think my number one favourite thing is meeting people. I’m absolutely fascinated by the way people operate, the way they think, the way they approach day- to-day tasks. Digital aside, it doesn’t matter what technology and what data you throw into things, it’s humans that make things work and I absolutely love the fact that everyone is unique and has unique skills and talents. 

 

A big thanks to Raja for providing his invaluable insight and sharing some food for thought! Look out for our next chapter, and if you’d like to nominate anyone to be in the spotlight, please do so by emailing us

 

P.S. Since you got this far, here's a surprise. Enjoy!

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